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Welcome to the end of the fantasy basketball season

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The NBA season is coming to an end and here is what I’ve learned this season.

NBA: Los Angeles Clippers at Minnesota Timberwolves Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

This quiet dust was gentlemen and ladies
And lads and girls;
Was laughter and ability and sighing,
And frocks and curls;
This passive place a summer’s nimble mansion,
Where bloom and bees
Fulfilled their oriental circuit,
Then ceased like these.

-Emily Dickinson

And, just like that, the season’s done. Another fantasy basketball regular season in the books. Twas fun while it lasted, but now it’s just dead bee carcasses everywhere.

How’d ya do? I hope you had a good time, at least.

Here’s a bit of a postmortem on my fantasy orange-in-the-bucket regular season: lessons learned, mistakes (re)made, fortunes won and lost, nations born, empires burned to the ground, lightsabers, gryphons, Isaiah Thomas forcing his way out of Ohio as quickly as he could, my Pistons dying on the vine AGAIN, and the inevitability of Austin Haunted Rivers remaining my starting point guard (he did!).

Real talk: I finished first in my league. Realer talk: I have absolutely no confidence in my team’s ability to compete in the playoffs. Here’s why:

These are the players on my team who are currently injured: Kawhi Leonard, Boogie Cousins, Kevin Durant, Golden Gary Harris. Those are, let’s see, yup, FOUR OF MY BEST PLAYERS. Who knows how KD will play when he returns from his rib injury? Who knows whether Kawhi will play, at all? Who knows why God hates Boogie so bad, and who knows how Golden Gary will play with his knee injury (IF he plays)?

Sigh. I’m left with DeMar DeChozan, Giannis, Andre Drummond, and Oladipo. Not the worst case scenario, but still, probably not good enough to beat the other good teams in my league. For instance, the #2 team just had a weekly team line with 91 3PM (my team had 51), 275 rebounds (my team had 258), 191 assists (139), 754 points (678), and had the same amount of free throw attempts (170 for him, 171 for me). Now, like everyone’s dad says, rebounds and free throws win you games! Except, not when your opponent is basically doubling your three pointers made. I don’t know how my team can withstand that onslaught, unless I win every other category, which...I mean, sure, I’ll try, but lo siento, Danger Will Robinson. I have a feeling I might get crushed. I have a bye in the first round, but that’s probably just so that more of my players can get injured.

If depth wins championships, then I’m as thin as Brandon Ingram, and he’s two dimensional.

Lessons learned:

  • I learned that doubting LeBron James is stupid. He’ll be a good fantasy player until he’s literally dead in the ground. If you’re thinking of selling him in a dynasty, by all means, sell him. Whoever you trade him to will probably win their league. I mean, what kind of return can you get for LBJ? Why would someone trade you super good young guys for one super good old guy? How many draft picks is The King worth? Honestly, I would just roll with him forever. It’s like having Mike Trout: of course you can get a haul for him, but the odds of it returning you actual equal value are staggeringly low. My brother has LBJ in our league; he was trying to trade him all season, basically (though, that may have more to do with his Pistons fandom than anything else). Now, he’s in the postseason, and his team will probably roll over everyone else because, hello!, LeBron James is on his team. Seriously, when has LBJ ever disappointed (in fantasy)?
  • I learned that I liked Karl-Anthony Towns, the Big KAT, more than the other unicorns (Giannis is a Freak, not a Unicorn). I savvy why people think Anthony Davis is better, and I do love the Brow, but I would absolutely draft Towns over AD, in real life and in fantasy. I just think his ceiling is the stars themselves. If AD didn’t get hurt every lunar cycle, then maybe I’d feel differently. Big KAT will never compete for MVP while Thibodeau is his coach, though. Thibs just refuses to unleash Towns. Over the past 15 days, Towns and Andrew Wiggins are basically taking the same amount of shots. However, Towns has a 58 FG% with 1.4 threes over that span, while Wiggins is shooting 46% and a three a game (which is improvement, if you can believe it). Wiggins has improved since Jimmy Butler went down, but Big KAT is far and away the best player on the team and the offense should revolve around him. If Minnesota misses the playoffs, I don’t know what you do. Fire Thibs? For who? But, I do know that Towns will remain awesome. He’s been the 4th most valuable player in my league this year.
  • I learned that Ben Simmons (#10 on my league’s player rater) and Joel Embiid (#13) are as awesome as advertised. Can you imagine if Philly’d taken Jayson Tatum instead of Markelle Fultz? Tatum’s been the 53rd best player in my league. (Side note: two years ago I traded Joel Embiid and my draft pick for Luol Deng. Do Not Listen To Me.)
  • I learned that I was a genius for holding onto Victor Oladipo. I loved him coming out of college (which means I hated him in college because he’s a goddamn Hoosier and I Go Blue Forever), I loved him getting experience as a point guard in Orlando, even though it was, haha, maybe not a great idea, and I loved him coming home to Indiana and stepping out of Sergeant Westbrook’s shadow. Dipo’s a top 20 player this year. In 2017, he was ranked 97th. Changes of scenery are For Real.
  • I learned that Scott Brooks, the Wizards head coach, is pretty damn good at developing young talent. Just look at Bradley Kind of a Big Beal, Otto Porter, Jr., Kelly Oubre, Jr., and Tomas Satoransky. All those guys are improving. Brooks isn’t the best game manager, but he sure as hell knows how to coach up young guys. He did it in OKC (Durant, Westbrook, Ibaka, JAMES GODDAMN HARDEN), and now he’s doing it in DC. Keep an eye on young players in DC’s system going forward.
  • I learned that no one wants Ancient Taj on their team even though he’s been a top 50 player this season. He’s been better than C.J. McCollum, Tobias Harris, Al Horford, KLAY! THOMPSON!, Blake Griffin (sigh), Eric Bledsoe, and Devin Booker. ALL of those players are at least 90% owned. Ancient Taj is less than 80% owned. I also learned that Ancient Taj is younger than LeBron James. WHAT. How is that possible? There are prehistoric cave paintings in Dumbledore, France that depict Ancient Taj and his consistently solid box scores. How is he only 32? Good Lord, is he a goddamn sleeper for next season?!
  • I learned that Rudy Gobert and Joe Ingles are MFing magic together. I can’t believe the Utah Jazz. I really hope they make the playoffs so that they can frustrate, and maybe defeat, a “better” team in Rounds 1 and 2. Question: would a Jazz-Raptors NBA Finals get blacked out?
  • I learned that Spencer Dinwiddie, a Professor and a Mayor, is also The Man. His contract is outrageous good. If you’re Cleveland, would you rather have George Hill and his contract, or Dinwiddie and his?
  • I learned (well, I remembered) that I don’t give a hot damn about Derrick Favors. He’s a top 100 player, but so what.
  • Dirk is still amazing. I hope he keeps playing. Why not go chase another ring as a bench scorer? Karl Malone did it, and almost got one. Go be Golden State’s 8th man and enjoy a nice, relaxing year in the Bay.
  • Joe Ingles is a top 75 player in my league this year. Joe. Ingles. You know what he’s averaging? No, you don’t, you don’t pay attention to the Jazz, which, duh, that means you don’t live in Utah. Ingles is averaging 11 points on the season, with a 46 FG%, a 45 3PT%, 4 rebounds, 4 assists, and over a steal per game. He has the TENTH BEST true shooting percentage! I traded for him in fantasy (Dejounte Murray and my draft pick for Ingles and Brook Lopez). I have NO regrets. Ingles is 60% owned in ESPN leagues. Thaddeus Young is owned more than him. C’mon.
  • I learned that Hoodie Melo is basically worth the same amount as JJ Redick now. Not great, but not as bad as we feared. If Paul George leaves OKC, then Melo may be in line for more production next year. Regardless, if you weren’t going to drop JJ, then you shouldn’t drop Melo.
  • I learned that I love Slow-Mo Kyle Anderson and Kelly Oubre, Jr., two top 100 young guys who are only going to get better. If Slow Kyle improves his shooting (especially from outside), and Oubre gets more minutes, then watch the eff out, they might just be top 50 next year.
  • I learned that I really, really want to see a Spurs team with a healthy Kawhi, Dejounte Murray, and Slo-Mo Kyle. I think that is a smothering defense. Could San Antonio be a sleeper candidate for Avery Bradley, especially if he’s on the cheap because of his injury?
  • I learned that assists have been democratized, but the main distributors are still important. Around 35 guys average 5+ assists each year, generally. In 2012-13, 89 players averaged 3+ assists, and 150 players averaged 2+ assists. This year, those numbers are 101 and 166, respectively. Teams are passing more. THREE of the top 10 in assists this year are Forwards.
  • I learned that Aaron Gordon is still figuring it out. He’s a top 100 player fersher, but I feel like people think he should be top 50. We’ll see what he and the Magic do this offseason. It’s such a crazy team, who knows, maybe they’ll be in the playoffs next year.
  • I learned that Wiggins is still overrated, but if he actually develops an outside shot, then he should become a properly rated player. He’s outside the top 100 in my league, though.
  • I (re)learned that elite rebounders remain rare. Only 13 players averaged double digit boards this season.
  • I (re)learned that I am haunted by waters, and that Austin Rivers remains my fantasy team’s starting point guard, just as I predicted before the season began. No one wants him in a trade, but I can’t just drop him to waivers. He plays for his dad and so is, possibly, the safest player to own in all of fantasy basketball. He’s basically a top 100 player, but he’s also on a team with more guards than a nuclear missile silo. (Uhh, actually, I hope not.) Sweet Lou, Pat Bev, Milos Teodosic, Austin Rivers, and Sindarius Thornwell. That’s a lotta underwhelming right there. Will the Clippers make the playoffs? If they do, will Austin get his kudos?
  • And, I learned that good intentions, proper preparation and planning, and research only get you so far. You need luck on your side, too. And, judging by my DL, luck abandoned me this season. Like a room covered in dead bees and rotting flowers, my fantasy basketball team slowly fills with quiet dust. This fantasy season (re)taught me the most important lesson of all: no one makes it out alive.